Non-Compliance in the Discovery Process

October 1, 2016

The court has broad discretion in imposing issue, evidence, and monetary sanctions for discovery abuse.  (Kuhns v. State of California (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 982, 988, see also Vallbona v. Springer (1996) 43 Cal.App.4th 1525, 1545.)

Once a party has been ordered to answer discovery or to produce documents more severe sanctions are available for continued refusal.  (C.C.P. §§ 2030.290(c), 2030.300(e).) The court may order that designated facts “shall be taken as established” by the party adversely affected by the discovery misuse; or it may prohibit the party who committed such misuse from supporting or opposing designated claims or defenses. (C.C.P. § 2023.030(b).)  The court may also prohibit the party (or party-affiliated witness) who disobeyed the court order from introducing designated matters in evidence. (C.C.P § 2023.030(c); Deeter v. Angus (1986) 179 Cal.App.3d 241, 255; Vallbona v. Springer (1996) 43 Cal.App.4th 1525, 1547-1548.)  In addition to any other sanction, the court may order the disobedient party or counsel responsible or both to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney fees, incurred as a result of the failure to obey (including fees on the sanctions motion).  (C.C.P. § 2023.030(a).)

Generally, noncompliance with a court order is all that need be shown. (Puritan Ins. Co. v. Sup.Ct. (Tri-C Machine Corp.) (1985) 171 Cal.App.3d 877, 884.)  However, more severe sanctions, such as terminating or evidence sanctions, require a showing of willfulness.  (C.C.P. § 904.1(a)(11), (12) & (b).)

Where a party fails to obey an order to answer discovery requests, the court may order the propounding party’s claims or defenses established without further proof; or may prohibit the deponent from introducing any evidence to the contrary.  (Juarez v. Boy Scouts of America, Inc. (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 377, 387—certain issues held established because of plaintiff’s failure to answer interrogatories regarding evidence supporting claims pertaining to these issues.)

Where a party or attorney engages in continuing tactics to prevent legitimate discovery, past conduct that has not been punished can contribute to a later award of sanctions based upon a more extensive course of conduct.  (Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. LcL Administrators, Inc. (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 1093, 1106.)  A sanctioned party’s history as repeat offender “is not only relevant, but also significant, in deciding whether to impose [] sanctions.” (Ibid.) 

Author: Richard Hoyer
Category: Class Actions, Legal Procedure, Uncategorized
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